Tech News on G4
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. campy comic book fun
Mar 16, 2015
By Alexander Cattani - G4 Canada
Most notably known for the renowned Fire Emblem series, developer Intelligent Systems is back with their latest offering: Code Name S.T.E.A.M. It is a third person strategy game similar to the PS3 cult favourite, Valkyrie Chronicles. But, does this 3DS exclusive fire on all cylinders or does it run out of steam before it can even get going?
The story kicks off with a bang as aliens launch a ruthless attack on London. After a short intro, tutorial, you're whisked into an airship and greeted by none other than Abraham Lincoln himself. It turns out that more than just jolly old England had been hit by the alien menace and it's now up an ever-growing motley crew of other S.T.E.A.M (Strike Team Eliminating the Alien Menace) agents to save the world.
From bizarrely out of place heavy metal interludes to an appearance from a mechanized version Abraham Lincoln, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. pulls out all the stops and relishes in its campy, ridiculous nature. The absurdity is genuine and never comes off as feeling contrived. Furthermore, the presentation is solid. Coupled with action bubbles and a charming comic panel layout, the aesthetic is essentially one big ode to comic books and it matches the tone perfectly.
The gameplay is an elegant bled of turn-based strategy and third person shooting. During missions, the player assumes control of four squad members and individually moves them about the battlefield, one by one. While the combat is turn-based, precision aiming is still a necessity as enemy units will sport glowing weak points that just beg to be shot at. All movements and attacks consume your "steam", a precious self-restocking resource that you will quickly learn to ration and respect.
Possessing tactile prowess is key for a game of this nature. From picking when to engage hostiles to retreating behind cover to utilizing environmental placements and more, immediate consequences await careless decisions and it is best to approach each mission with a heightened sense of caution if you wish to succeed.
This is one of the main reasons why I so deeply enjoyed the game's combat mechanic. Most of the time, I felt as if each downed teammate or failed mission was a direct result of my own carelessness. After about the fifth chapter, I eventually developed a grasp for the mechanics and began to adopt a more meticulous approach. There were certain points in some missions where I felt like the A.I. had an unfair leg up on my squad. For example, towards the end of some missions, enemies would infinitely spawn out of certain locations in the map. Rather than add a sense of tension, I found it to be a common annoyance. I wanted to find all the collectables in the map once the battle had concluded but if my party's health was nearly diminished, I'd have to extract A.S.A.P. to avoid being taken out by a never-ending horde of aliens.
Speaking of aliens, get used to seeing these purple adversaries, as enemy variety is woefully thin. It's disappointing that your foes are so identical to one another especially since your squad mates and nearly every other supporting character are noticeably varied. You will encounter new agents as you make your way through the campaign. Each agent comes sporting his or her own unique ability to use in battle. Having such a distinct roster of playable characters made combat feel fresh. Though you are likely to find your favourites, the options make gameplay that much deeper.
One problem in particular that significantly plagues gameplay is the ridiculous wait times that occur between turns. After you've finished your turn, you are forced to sit and wait until the enemy has finished their moves. This problem is further amplified when the enemy has upward of ten units to command. In some cases, I had to put my 3DS down and wait nearly a minute until it was my turn. It truly is baffling as to why some sort of fast-forward or skip option wasn't made available. Because of such a poor design flaw, pacing and tension greatly suffer.
When the roughly twelve hour campaign comes to an end, a competitive option lies in wait. Multiplayer is enjoyable but squanders any hopes of having a lasting dedicated player base due to its predictability and limited scope. In such a strategic heavy game, you're bound to eventually pick up a solid tactic for each map and run with it. I repeated a certain squad formation in the same map multiple times and each time emerged victorious. If perhaps procedurally generated multiplayer arenas were added, this would alleviate the issue. Furthermore, a restrictive sixty second timer is in place during each players turn. It's understandable to why it is included but it made combat feel less methodical and more uncomfortably rushed.
When all is said and done, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. delivers on most fronts. Intelligent Systems has crafted a rewarding strategy game that is equal parts funny and mechanically deep. Despite some cons, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is a must play for fans of the strategy genre.
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.
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